Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

How To Do It

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

I live in fear of Tim Harford. He hosts the Radio 4 and BBC World Service program More Or Less. The premise of this brilliant programme is that they interrogate statistics that have entered the public realm but sound a bit dubious. Classically it is politicians who are subject to fact checking but the programme’s range is broad, it’s up-beat and playful; Tim Harford is fantastic but he terrifies me. Continue reading “How To Do It” »

Changing the Guard

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

A changing of the arts guard has been sneaking up on us in the West Midlands.

Tim Hodgson must have been Performing Arts Producer at mac birmingham for over a year now. There he replaced Louisa Davies who moved to become Events Manager at the RSC. Paul Burns has moved on from International Dance Festival Birmingham. Fiona Allan is the new boss at the Hippodrome having moved from The Curve in Leicester. Stephen and Jackie Newbould are leaving Birmingham Contemporary Music Group soon. Aaron Wright has just been announced as Artistic Director of Fierce replacing Harun Morrison and Laura MacDermott.

Each producer / programmer brings their own personal interests and preferences to a new post, which impact on who they commission and who they book. Each shuffling of personnel appears to close down opportunities for some and open avenues for others. There are fresh starts and new visions wherever we turn. These are exciting times.

The final exchange on what I suspect is an incomplete list is that Matt Burman has left Warwick Arts Centre (to head up the Yorkshire festival) and is replaced by Julia Carruthers. Matt had a great interest and experience of Contemporary Theatre, which suited Stan’s Cafe very well. Julia seems to have had more of a focus on Contemporary Dance, so we may have to introduce ourselves to her. I’m hoping that this introduction goes well, not least because she was tour managing the Michael Clark Company when they were collaborating with The Fall and she must must have some hair raising stories to tell of those days.

What are the Odds?

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

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Today with the excellent Kate Green I was working with some young people in Birmingham planning a walking adventure in the City Centre on Tuesday. All was going well and as planned we moved on to the Risk Assessment section in which we ask the students to think through what the risks of the trip may be, if these are acceptable and how we mitigate against them. The first risk they thought of was ‘being blown up’. It may have been that they were playing a deadpan game of winding us up. I hope they were. If they were they were playing it very straight and consistent. We played along, to an extent; after all it is a risk.
Continue reading “What are the Odds?” »

Being In Time

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

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On Saturday at 06:30 I experienced Something Good outside Birmingham Cathedral; dawn happened. As Dan Jones’ composition for the cathedral choir swirled around the churchyard, the streetlights clicked off in small clusters and a felt the lightness that came from realising that when I had arrived it had been the night and now, possibly fifteen minutes later, it had become the day. Although I have more than a passing acquaintance with dawn I cannot recall the last time I experienced like this. Usually I am in my own world noting the presence of dawn with more or less pleasure, on Saturday I experienced being in time and it was a joyous feeling. Continue reading “Being In Time” »

Chas Ambler

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

It was a wonder that I was able even to see Chas Ambler. He was a mature student, in the third year studying theatre at Lancaster University when I had just arrived, a naïf first year student. Rumour had it that Chas drove round the town in a decommissioned London Taxi, that he had worked with counter cultural pranksters The Natural Theatre Company and that he smoked marijuana. We existed in different dimensions. Continue reading “Chas Ambler” »

Street Spy 2

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

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Years ago the Birmingham Post published a special supplement to celebrate Birmingham’s first Arts Fest. I wrote a piece which was half poem and half observational game. It was quite fun so when a local shop asked if we had anything for a newspaper they were planning to publish we sent them a copy of Street Spy and suggested we could do something similar for them. They liked it and agreed but things aren’t quite that simple when art and shops meet. Continue reading “Street Spy 2” »

Art Hols

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

So the Yarkers eschewed Tuscany for yet another year and went, as usual, to the West coast of France. With a pin in a map we found ourselves in the Saint Jean de Monts, a jolly seaside town which became even more jolly when the lottery came to town.

From what we could deduce, as a kind of thank you / promotional push, the French lottery send at least one road show around the country and on 22nd July our paths crossed.
Continue reading “Art Hols” »

Clive Dutton

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

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It was very sad yesterday to learn of the death of Clive Dutton. He was an amazing man.

I’m not going to rehearse his biography here as a professional journalist has written a proper obituary, but certainly our experience of Clive tallies with everything said about him in that obituary.

Clive had vision, energy and charisma. He was the Executive Director of Regeneration at Birmingham City Council when we met him. It was at a time when we didn’t feel we were getting much traction in the city and someone had recommended with visit Mr. Dutton. Continue reading “Clive Dutton” »

Geoff Sims

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

It was with great sadness I learned late last week that Geoff Sims has died. Geoff was Director of mac birmingham when Stan’s Cafe first made contact with the venue in 1991. He was always very supportive to us, as he was to very many people. He was a warm and generous person who I was always very pleased to bump into in and around Birmingham’s arts scene – particularly at mac.

Dorothy Wilson’s Obituary for her friend and colleague filled in many details of Geoff’s professional life and confirmed what a great contribution he made to the region’s artistic community. There is an opportunity to celebrate this contribution through contributions to a Photographic Fund started by mac birmingham in his honour (email nicola.saunders@macbirmingham.co.uk for details).

Geoff Sims (1944 – 2014) RIP

Risk Analysis

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

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The clock is ticking down on the deadline for the final submission of our business plan to Arts Council England. Once this is approved it will confirm our successful application to remain an National Portfolio Organisation, meaning we are given a sum of money to help us pursue and agreed program of arts activity over the next three years. One of the most recent elements added to our plan has been a detailed risk assessment. Ros Robins, who has been helping us shape our business plan, introduced us to a risk weighting matrix that she has recently deployed helping the Everyman in Liverpool to it’s acclaimed reopening. The matrix sets out risks on the left hand column followed by consequences, mitigation Etc. In the centre is a column for weighting the runs from boring “improbable x insignificant impact” combination to the abandon ship “highly probable and catastrophic”. Continue reading “Risk Analysis” »


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